IEMs Discovery & General Discussion

On the btr5 are you using them bluetooth with low gain?

Yes. Bluetooth (aptx) low gain, lossless files.

This is one of the clear differences between the btr5 and the qudelix for me. I would bet, if you wired it, suddenly low gain vs high gain wouldn’t matter for better sound.

The btr5 over bluetooth had a noticeable noise floor. That floor was completely gone over wired. The qudelix never showed any noise at all.

Also, the btr5 does something different with volume. When wired, it disables the iphone volume on my iphone (may be different on your android phone) and then the btr5 volume can be kept quite low (22-30 out of 60) for my iems. But over bluetooth both volumes act independently. But the btr5 volume has to be boosted quite a bit to get to the same levels coming out of the iems. This is where I would hear noise in the background. Wire it, no noise.

The qudelix volume control is pure genius.

Interesting. I have never noticed anything like that on the BTR5.
I usually keep my phone volume maxed and use the BTR5 volume control over bluetooth. Almost never use wired unless I’m playing around with DSD and the like, or if I’m using it on my computer.

The Qudelix looks compelling, but I’m pretty happy with the BTR5 for that use case.

What I am looking into is my desktop setup. Usually my A3 through the SDAC sounds a ton better than the BTR5, but it’s completely different with the B2.

I know the A3 isn’t super impressive in terms of price, but it’s gotten me very far with my over-ear headphones. I may be trying some other amps and dac/amp combos in the near future.

As for the IE300 updates, I gotta say, this was an eye-opening experience. After my first day or two with them, I almost never used them at all. My brother, on the other hand was floored by them, so he ended up buying them off me. Meanwhile, while I’m waiting on the B2 Dusk to arrive, I’ve been using the B2 every day. They’re excellent.

I’ll let y’all know what I think of the b2 compared to the dusk when the time comes.

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There is something about time that makes you either like a headphone more or less. The b2 dusk just got better. I want to put it on again and see how I feel. I suspect it will be tonally more appealing but technically underwhelming compred to what I am used to. I haven’t found many headphones that I don’t need some kind of break. Even the ether cx got to be a bit much. (I get overwhelmed by a lot of loud or complicated sounds coming at me. That’s why I was never a club/bar person)

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Prisma Audio Azul Review - When Less is More

Introduction

Based out of Australia, Prisma Audio is one of the latest rookie brands to hit the crowded IEM market. The brand is a one-man-show, headed by Josh Szabo (or “Veebee” as many know him by on Discord). I have watched progress of his IEM unfold for the past year or so, via Discord, and it’s been quite exciting to see the project come to life. The Azul is the company’s debut model, a 2BA configuration that will cost you roughly $300 USD. The ethos behind the Azul is one of simplicity. In a world of hybrids and high-driver count IEMs, the Azul aims to punch beyond its humble roots and demonstrate that there is still merit to the "less is more’’ approach that most brands have long eschewed.

…so can it actually? Read on to find out if Prisma Audio has succeeded in their lofty endeavor.

This unit was kindly loaned by SuperReview. Thank you! You can find him on YouTube here. At the end of the review period, it will be returned. As always, what follows are my honest thoughts and opinions to the best of my ability.

Source & Driveability

Critical listening was done off of a variety of sources including an iBasso DX160, A&K SP1000M, and iFi Micro iDSD Black Label. As usual, the stock cable, stock tips, and lossless FLAC files were used. The Azul is considerably more difficult to drive than most BA IEMs; however, I never broke 50% using the Apple dongle with my iPhone much less with any of the sources listed above.

Although it is not an advertised feature, the Azul does appear to have some form or another of linear impedance. Running it through 15/35/75 Ohm adapters, the Azul’s frequency response did not change, although it was (expectedly) considerably more difficult to drive. This effectively means that your source should not change the intended frequency response of the Azul like might occur with some more sensitive IEMs. I mentioned this to Josh, and he told me he’d rather not advertise this as a feature, as it was not necessarily intentional.

The Tangibles

The Azul arrives in packaging not dissimilar to the Apple Airpods Pro. Indeed, I’m reminded a good deal of Apple’s presentation if, you know, Apple actually took the liberty of including accessories. Here’s what’ll come with the Azul specifically:

  • 2-Pin 0.78mm cable
  • Azla SednaEarfit Short (ss/s/sm/m/ml/l)
  • Mesh Carry Baggy
  • Metal Placard w/ SN
  • Velvet Lined, Faux Leather Carrying Case

I really do think Prisma Audio has knocked it out of the park here. Each accessory is of excellent quality, and they’re everything you need and nothing you don’t. The cable is extremely soft and pliable; the connectors are angled to facilitate ease of looping around the ear. There’s no chin slider - a small oversight - but I could see myself buying one of these cables standalone for my other IEMs. It’s really that nice of a cable. And the faux leather case is equally brilliant. Yeah, it’s not top-grade leather, but it passed the “sniff test” (trust me, this is a thing) with flying colors. It’s also the perfect size for carrying an IEM in my opinion.

The Azul is well-constructed, sporting a plastic, 3D-printed shell and an anodized aluminum faceplate with the company’s logo. The 3D-printed shell is see-through, giving you a view of the various components utilized inside. The nozzle has a rim to keep the ear tips on, plus a showerhead grill to keep earwax out. Connector points are slightly recessed to prevent undue strain on the IEM. If you’re feeling patriotic, then you’ll be happy to know that it’s designed and made in Melbourne, Australia. For fit and comfort, I was able to achieve a solid seal with the Azul and wear it for hours without discomfort.

Sound Analysis

Frequency response measured off of an IEC-711 coupler. There is a resonance peak at 8kHz. As such, measurements after this point should not be considered entirely accurate.

The Azul’s overall tuning is what I would describe as neutral-reference. It is brighter, leaner, and tilted toward the upper-midrange and upper-treble regions accordingly. This is not an IEM for listeners seeking a guilty-pleasure listen, but rather for those who wish to hear their music in a clean, virtually uncolored fashion.

Clearly, the closest point of comparison to the Azul from a tuning standpoint is the venerable Etymotic ER4XR. This is the legendary neutral-IEM, the benchmark with which no shortage of IEMs have been compared to. But here’s something that you, the reader, may not know: The ER4XR is an IEM which I respect, but which I am not particularly fond of subjectively. Textureless bass, compressed imaging, pretty horrible timbre, and rolled-off treble, there is little about the ER4XR that remotely conforms to my ideal sound. So you see that there are some (okay, more like a ton of) preconceived biases that I have against this type of sound signature; suffice it to say the Azul has a high bar to clear.

Thankfully, the Azul has a few tricks up its sleeve. Let’s switch up the usual bottom-to-top format because I think what one would notice first about the Azul is its treble. Despite what no shortage of reviews would have you believe, treble extension is a foreign concept to most all sub-$500 IEMs that I’ve heard. By contrast, the Azul has terrific treble extension and air; heck, it almost has too much. I don’t think the Azul even dips post-10kHz; it’s nearly linear with tremendous quantity. Attack incisiveness is strong, perhaps pushing through more than it should, leading to a slight sharpness, particularly when listening at higher volumes (and I rarely break 75dB). While treble-heads will no doubt rejoice, I cannot help but feel the Azul is toeing the line here.

The midrange and bass follow the skeleton of the ER4XR’s tuning more closely. Intangibly, however, I’m reminded of the equally legendary Hidition Viento. Like so, I hear quite a bit of grit to the Azul’s note decay. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with what some might otherwise call “note texture” in more pleasant terms. On one hand, I enjoy the way this adds a sense of crunch to male vocals. Listening to Dierks Bentley’s “Living,” I find myself glued to every note, enjoying the trailing roughness to vocal consonance and the analog quality it adds. On the likes of IU’s “Blueming,” however, there is an etched quality to her normally smooth, bright vocal timbre that comes off more mechanical than I’d prefer. The Azul’s upper-midrange, at least, has been dropped down a tad to circumvent the shouty-ness that could characterize both the ER4XR and Viento’s tuning.

The Azul’s bass also reminds me a lot of the Hidition Viento. It sounds slightly more textured than most BA bass I’ve heard; however, let it be known that you are not buying the Azul for its bass. Rumble or slam, the Azul doesn’t exactly have it, so you’d best look elsewhere to scratch that itch. That said, I’d imagine it would be sufficient for most listeners, and I can’t really fault the tuning decision that was made here. If more bass was added in - even if it was largely dedicated to the sub-bass - I’d imagine staging would take a hit.

Technical Performance

And unfortunately, the Azul doesn’t have much staging to start with. Not only is the Azul’s staging your standard IEM affair, but the Azul is also seriously lacking in center image and relegated to three-blob territory accordingly. This is unfortunate given that the Azul has plenty of treble air. I suppose it’s a further testament to staging being more than a product of tuning. For surface-level detail, the Azul’s thinner notes and copious amounts of treble energy do, of course, boost the perception of resolution. Overall detail sounds like it’s a small step behind the ER4XR to my ears.

Of course, that’s not too shabby considering the ER4XR’s the most resolving single-BA IEM I’ve heard to date. And if there’s one thing that stands out about the Azul, it would be its macrodynamic contrast. For readers who might not be familiar with this term, there are decibel peaks and valleys that are present in any given recording. Macrodynamics, then, are a reference to how an IEM scales these gradations. This can be further broken down into two subsets to my ears: contrast and weight. I’m not sure if I’ve covered these terms in my writing before (as most IEMs lack these qualities altogether!) so I’ll try to illustrate what I’m talking about.

In terms of weight, on something like Taeyeon’s “Make Me Love You,” the Azul lacks the intensity and sense of leading, excursive punch to the transition to the chorus at 0:51. But for sheer contrast, the Azul is quite competent in a manner not dissimilar to the Moondrop B2. On a track with more dynamic range such as Keiichi Okabe’s “Weight of the World,” the Azul is quiet when it should be and loud when it should be. The issue you run into with most BA IEMs - the ER4XR is a prime example, I might add - is an upwards-compressed, or flat, scaling of dynamic swings. That the Azul has circumvented this quality, if only marginally, is commendable. All the more so considering macrodynamics are what largely qualify “engagement factor” to my ears.

The Subjective

I know I’m critical. Very critical. And of course, readers will want to know whether I think the Azul is better than the legendary ER4XR. So to lend some context to where the Azul stands, the answer is, yes, I think it is. Or at least for my preferences it is. While it might not quite have the ER4XR’s sheer detail, the Azul plays foil to the ER4XR’s much darker treble and sounds considerably more dynamic. Stack on the ER4XR’s fit memes, and it’s really not a contest for me.

But to reiterate: I never was a fan of the ER4XR anyways. Indeed, I’ve always been more of an ER2XR guy myself, and I think the Azul has more of an uphill battle here. Another one of the goals that Josh set out for himself was to take on the de-facto $300 benchmark, the Moondrop B2. Considering I’d place the B2 over the ER4XR, that’s a very lofty goal indeed. But while the Azul is certainly a contender, I do not think it usurps the B2 or the ER2XR; it’s more so a side grade to these IEMs. A worthy sidegrade, nonetheless, and one that foils both IEMs’ lack of treble air and the B2’s lack of coherency. Suffice it to say that the Azul has its place among the competition even if it’s not necessarily as well-rounded as something like the B2 on paper. And there is no shame in that, as few - if any - IEMs are.

The Verdict

Allow me to digress momentarily and to take you on a tangent that I promise ties everything together: burn-in. Now, burn-in is a funny thing. One should listen to an IEM for a hundred hours, two hundred hours, upwards of three hundred hours depending on who one asks, for it to sound good, otherwise one’s review and thoughts are invalidated. I’m not here to debate what causes it, but I always get a laugh out of this oft-used copout. Why? Well, it’s been my experience that the longer I’m able to listen to an IEM, the more critical the final review will be! After all, if I have more time to get familiar with an IEM, it only makes sense that I likewise have more time to find critique. Indeed, a quick look at my impressions versus reviews will corroborate this pattern.

So the Azul surprised me. While I didn’t necessarily find myself reaching for it more frequently over the couple weeks I listened to it, I did find the charm of the Azul’s simplicity growing on me. Yeah, I still dislike the staging and it could really use some more slap factor. But just the fact that my initial impressions did not shift for the worse and that I failed to find more stuff to nitpick? Now that is the hallmark of the most solid IEMs to my ears. Slap on carefully curated, top-notch accessories and you have one hell of a package from a first time brand. It’s safe to say the Azul merits the thumbs-up from this reviewer, and it’s an IEM that I think should definitely be on your list if you’re looking for a neutral-reference tuning.

Reference Tracks

  • Aimer - Hakuchuumu
  • David Nail - Let It Rain
  • Everglow - DUN DUN
  • Girls’ Generation - Galaxy Supernova
  • Illenium - Broken Ones
  • Joe Nichols - Sunny and 75
  • Keith Urban - Defying Gravity (2009)
  • Keiichi Okabe - Weight of the World (NieR:Automata Original Soundtrack)
  • Sabai - Million Days
  • Sawano Hiroyuki - Best of Vocal Works Remastered (2020)
  • Taeyeon - My Voice (2017)
  • Tiffany - I Just Wanna Dance
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Excellent review @Precogvision. This looks like a noteworthy iem.

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Hey! First post here, figured it’s worth sharing.

So, about the Sennheiser IE300 cable situation: I just got in a Linsoul Tripowin cable (8-core, 3.5mm, MMCX with mic), and it indeed does not fit.

Fortunately, all you need to do is pry out the plastic L/R indicator rings (on the cable, not the IEMs), which is easy enough. After you do that they fit, but the MMCX connection itself is a little different still from the one Sennheiser uses, so the snap isn’t really clean and satisfying nor do they spin easily. They do fit securely, though.

And once they’re in, dear lord… It just lets the IEMs settle perfectly into place. The stock cable’s memory wire bits would never quite let them sit perfectly and always put pressure in weird places, but the Tripowin cable is just pop it in and good.

Cable noise is almost eliminated, and while the Amazon listing doesn’t show it the “with mic” version does in fact have a whole remote. Only downside is that the IEMs are less secured, but the result is that they naturally sit perfectly without fiddling and come out without much effort. So I say it’s a win-win.

I just got it an hour ago, so this is before any long-term testing. But, for the moment, as long as you’re comfortable prying off the little plastic rings, the Tripowin cable is compatible with the IE300 and is awesome.

My photography ain’t great, but here 'ya go:

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Alright… here’s the Tin T5 review that some might have been waiting for. Or not.

Introduction

If you’ve been around the budget IEM space over the past three years or so, Tin HiFi (or Tin Audio as they were known before) would be a familiar name. From the T2 that put them on the map, Tin HiFi has continued to release model after model, some better than others, until the T5 that we have here today. So what is the Tin T5? It’s a single dynamic driver IEM that uses a 10 mm DOC driver. What DOC actually stands for, I don’t know but the promotional pieces I’ve seen tries to relate it to diamond-like carbon DDs. Personally, I don’t really care much for marketing materials and whether not the IEM is made of some exotic compound so if you’re curious to know more about the T5 I’ll defer to its product page. Speaking of product pages, you can get the Tin T5 over at Linsoul and Drop. At the time of writing, it’s going for an early bird price of $110 though MSRP looks to be $130 once the promo ends. Alright, on to the review.

Disclaimer: I reviewed the Tin HiFi T5 from Linsoul in exchange for this honest review. I have not and will not be compensated in any other way.

What’s in the Box?

I made an unboxing video over on the Audio Discourse YouTube channel which I’ll link here. To summarize: the T5 comes with a foamy, fake-leather case, a 2-pin recessed cable, spare nozzle filters, a nozzle replacement tool, and a cleaning brush. It also comes with 6 pairs of tips where half are your generic tips, the other half are ostensibly Spin-Fit knockoffs.

The IEMs themselves have an ergonomic dark-gray metal shell. They fit quite comfortably in my ear and isolate decently. The cable is… serviceable. Not the best but nothing too wrong with it. It has a bit of cable memory thanks to its plasticky sheath. Cable noise is relatively low but still present. I wish they had kept with the Tin T2 Plus’ cable instead. That was nice.

Sound

First impressions… were not good. And they didn’t change over the past few days I’ve spent with the Tin T5. It’s a V-shaped IEM with bass that bleeds into the mids with a lower treble spike. The Tin T5 is a $130 IEM that looks like $200 but sounds like a mediocre $50 IEM. That pretty much sums up my thoughts around the T5 in a couple of sentences. From here you can probably tell I won’t be recommending this IEM, and even if I try to wax poetic about the different parts of its sound, it’s a moot point. Still, for the sake of the review and for those still interested, keep reading. Actually, please keep reading so I don’t feel like the 5 hours or so writing I spent this review isn’t wasted.

Bass

The bass of the T5 is boosted but isn’t particularly good. Quantity wise, I’d say it isn’t quite to basshead levels but there’s still plenty of bass here and it does extend and dig down when called for. Quality wise, it sounds a little soft and doesn’t really slam. It’s the boomy type of bass rather than punchy. Note definition is generally poor unless you put on a track with superb mixing/mastering. The bass also bleeds into the low mids quite a bit. I hesitate to call it muddy because it doesn’t really sound like what I’d normally associate with mud, but definitely has some of that unpleasant bass intrusion and lack of clarity in that region. The only instrument that worked for me on the bass were low/floor toms.

Mids

Low mids bleh aside, the upper mids are actually fine for me. The pinna gain is pretty reasonable and centered around that 2.5-3 kHz mark so that’s nice to see. This has an interesting effect on vocals. If a vocalist is solo and singing a strong, clear melody with an emphasis on the upper harmonics, the tone is actually pretty OK. The vocalists sounds front and center. But as soon as the song starts to get filled out with various instruments and complex passages, the T5 struggles. Vocals fade into the mix and loses prominence. I think its because as more of that low mids energy comes in, the vocals have a hard time separating from the other instruments in the track and sounds suffocated as a result. As for these other instruments, they’re mostly a blur to me. Nothing particularly bad but nothing worth noting.

Treble

If you look at the graph, you can see a spike at the 5 kHz mark for the treble. Personally, my ears are pretty resistant to treble so the peak doesn’t affect me that much. I also don’t hear it to be overly sibilant though your mileage may vary. What this peak DOES do is make hats/cymbals sound splashy and gives them a decidedly unbalanced sort of sound, throwing off their timbre substantially. For some, the treble of the T5 will be fatiguing. I find that despite its negatives, the treble spike does give the T5 some energy to prevent it from being dead. But I don’t find the T5 bright in the way the T2 Plus or Thieaudio Legacy 4 was with their constant crisp and shine. This is just splashy with the occasional burst of sharpness if the track hits that spike.

Presentation

Bog standard from IEMs and nothing special. Average soundstage, maybe slightly below average imaging. Resolution isn’t anything better than something like the T2 Plus. It has an overall undefined sort of sound. Instrument separation is a problem spot for the T5. Once you have a full band going the T5 just can’t keep and instruments start to blend into each other’s spaces. Of course, this isn’t helped with its less than stellar staging.

Some Graph Comparisons

Despite the graph of the T5 not looking too hot at first glance, it does share a few elements with other more favorable IEMs.

Here it is against the Thieaudio Clairvoyance. Yes, obviously there’s that bass bleed and 5 kHz spike. But if you look just the upper mids around 1-4 kHz region, it’s not far out of the ordinary. Here is where that inconsistency with the vocals come in I think. On some tracks it sounds fine. In others, especially where the voice either touches the spike or utilizes the lower frequencies more, the T5 runs into trouble.

Here it is against the Tin T2 Plus. The bass curves almost identically. But I find the T2 Plus to have a much cleaner sounding bass response with more definition than the T5 does. The T5’s bass is oddly murky when a full band is going.

Make of this what you will. I just wanted to give a bit of context to the T5’s graph and some of the odd thought I had while listening to it.

Should You Buy It?

No. While the Tin T5 is far from the worst thing I’ve ever heard, I cannot call it good. It’s one of those things that if you had it as your only IEM and listen to it for long enough, your brain will get used to its sound and it’ll be OK. But put it by any real measure of decent and the T5 is clearly second fiddle. I’m not sure what’s going on at Tin HiFi but they seem to have lost their way when it comes to what made their tuning unique since the T4.

Even if you prefer this sort of more bassy tuning compared to Tin’s traditional lean and bright signatures, I think T2 Plus does everything the T5 does better at half the price. Better cable, better fit, lighter shell. Way better tonality and treble tuning. Better resolution and definition. While the bass tuning might look similar, the T2 Plus bass doesn’t feel as intrusive into the low mids like the T5 does. So much for that fancy DOC driver. Where the T5 may be a $130 IEM that sounds like a mediocre $50 IEM, the T2 Plus is a $60 that sounds like a mediocre $200 IEM. I’m fairly happy listening to music with the T2 Plus. Listening to the T5 is a chore.

Anyway, I think I’ve made my point. The T5 is not an IEM I can recommend to… anyone really. Buy the T2 Plus or some of the other great IEMs in this hyper competitive price segment. The T5 is a regression to the mean but maybe that’s exactly what Tin HiFi wants. Maybe they’ve done the math and are coasting on their brand awareness to sell mediocrity to more people rather than interesting products to a few. Who knows. What I do know is I don’t like it and after the T5, my interest in the Tin HiFi brand has faded.

Written by Fc-Construct

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Best straight forward and to the point remark I have seen in a review, for a long time :+1: :+1:

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Nice review, I think I’ll buy them :wink:

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Nah, @SenyorC you will have to get on the wait list. People will be binning all their other IEM’s and clamoring for these. :smiling_imp: :smiling_imp: :smiling_imp:

I agree that is a brutally honest review. Well done @Fc-Construct .

Mark Gosdin

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How about I trade the T5 for your HE1000se? Special offer for today only :innocent:

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If only the HE1000se were mine… then I could say no :wink:

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Wondering if anyone knows of an ear-tip brand/model that can fit the Moondrop Blessing 2 with a wide, shallow bore.

B2 with eartips from the skullcandy Ink’d circa 2015 is probably the most comfortable IEM I’ve ever had the pleasure of using, but the skullcandy tips aren’t necessarily meant to fit over the B2’s stem… stem? Tube? Whatever you call it.

I think the main beneficial characteristics of the skullcandy tip are the super wide bore (doesn’t constrict after the IEM tube) and the bore being shallower than any other tips I’ve used, (~1.5-1.7mm from edge of tip to beginning of item tube) so the IEM’s effectively sit deeper in my ear, taking pressure off the antitragus cartilage (I had to look this up lol)

so if anyone knows of a readily available eartip that has these characteristics, please let me know so I can try them out.

Sedna eartips short in regular or light?

Those have the widest bore I own. And stay relatively close to the tip. They may be very tight on the dusk though.

The create a clearer high sound with slightly less bass generally. However, that is from my zen. I have never tried them on the dusk, but I could.

AZLA SednaEarfitLight Short 2 Pairs (Size ML) https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B083XQM2YP/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_34EW961Y5G8MBYK69JSV

Amazon links to the light short ones. I have a few of them. They are pretty high on my personal like list.

If you get a chance, I’d appreciate it.

Looks like my B2 dusk cleared customs a couple days ago. Looking forward to trying them out and comparing to the vanilla B2.

I also got a balanced cable to use with my BTR5. Not sure if they benefit much from the balanced out (still need to try single ended again) but the cable itself is just so much nicer. lol.

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They do. On btr5 and qudelix amps, pretty much everything benefits from the balanced side in some way. Single ended is essentially equivalent to the apple dongle.

The headroom and additional power helps even on the stupidly easy to drive zen. The dusk definitely likes it.

I will try to put them on a bit later if I can. The dusk is my wife’s now.

Sweet. No rush. I haven’t lost or destroyed the skullcandy’s yet. lol

The amazon page you sent says they’ll fit up to 6.7mm, which the B2 falls within iirc… I have calipers in front of me, and the B2 in my ears, but the Hollow Knight OST is playing and I can’t bring myself to take them out.

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